MISERY LOVES COMPANY EVEN WHEN ONE does not know they are miserable. There was a small group of us friends who got together often to go restaurant hopping. Yes, you heard correctly; we would go from one restaurant to another to another. Some people go bar hopping; but for me, alcohol was never my thing. I would rather chow down on food and snacks. The group of us would start the night at one restaurant, where we would have our main meal. After sitting and talking over tea/coffee after the meal, we would leave and go to a restaurant that made great French fries. I would have a whole plate of them with a soft drink. From there, we would drive around for a while deciding where we wanted to go next. One of my friends was fond of this pancake house, so we would usually wind up there to split a couple of orders of pancakes. I have to say they were always good. To end the evening, we would go to one of my favorite places; it was an old diner where they made these dynamite milkshakes. There was nothing better than ending a night out with friends by having one of these milkshakes. My choice was always the chocolate one. IT FINALLY TOOK AN EXPANDING WAISTLINE to make me confront the reality of what I was doing to myself. I had been stuffing my feelings of self-worth by stuffing my face. I hated myself and realized I was the only one who could change it. I still went out with my friends; but instead of digging into the food at every location, I would just order another cup of tea or something small that would have fewer damaging effects on my body. Exercise became a focus for me, so I started introducing cardio into my daily routines. My friends noticed my physical appearance was slowly changing. They were supportive for the most part; however, I could sense something was going on when I would join them on a restaurant run. I could go into my theories about it; but instead, let me just say I got a sense they were feeling uncomfortable having me sitting with them with my cup of tea, while they were devouring large quantities of food. I understood it because I would probably feel the same way. Eventually, I attended our restaurant runs less and less. Some friends would stay in contact with me, others not so much. I just knew I had to make a change in my life; the same way the main character, in this film festival winner, had to do in her life. AS HER FRIENDS’ LIVES CONTINUED TO grow Brittany, played by Jillian Bell (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party), knew she would have to make a change. However, going to a doctor to score some prescription drugs may not have been the best choice when the doctor refused, telling her she was overweight. With Michaela Watkins (The Back-Up Plan, In a World…) as Catherine, Alice Lee (Wish Upon, Sierra Burgess is a Loser) as Gretchen, Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Tag) as Demetrius and Utkarsh Ambudkar (Pitch Perfect, Barbershop: The Next Cut) as Jern; this comedic drama was made better by Jillian Bell. She was wonderful in her role, authentically coming across as real and vulnerable. There have been similar stories done before; however, I found this script had more of a raw element to it which only drew me more into the story. Of course, with being able to relate to some of Jillian’s issues, I felt a solid connection to this picture. My guess would be more viewers than not would find something to relate to in this movie. By picking this film to go see, you would be making a healthier choice.
3 ¼ stars
WE WERE LINED UP IN a single row, one behind the other. The gym teacher handed the basketball to the first boy, telling him to take a shot at the hoop. I looked up at the basketball hoop, with its netting that looked like something a fisherman had dragged through the ocean; it was ragged and gray as it lifelessly hung down. The first boy missed the hoop so he had to hand over the basketball to the next student standing in line. The 2nd boy made a basket which meant he got to take another turn. It was a simple game; for every basket a student made they could take another turn, otherwise hand off the ball to the next boy in line. My only experience playing with a basketball before was with my friends for a game called Horse. I had no desire to get involved with any type of competition that involved a ball at school; because, I had seen just how competitive and mean students were when they competed with each other. The student who was not as skilled as his teammates would be ridiculed and abused outside of the eyes and ears of the gym teacher. LIVING IN A CITY THAT HAD a famous, winning basketball team you would think I would have gotten into the sport; you would be incorrect. I enjoyed watching the game but have never gone out of my way to devote time to sitting and watching it on TV. The players’ athletic abilities astound me, as well as their showmanship; that was about it for me. I may have mentioned this before but I have a hard time accepting the fact that athletes get paid millions of dollars for playing with a ball, while school teachers barely get by on their salaries and they are molding the minds of children. Now I am aware how team sports activities lend themselves to the bonds players form with each other. In high school the guys on the football or baseball team were inseparable; that was not necessarily the case for those on the debate or chess teams. It was rare to see a single football player walking down the school’s hallway without a buddy alongside of him. I am not judging this by the way; I think it is great when a student feels like they belong to something because I am aware of those who did not feel like they belonged. Let me tell you it is a whole different experience for the outsider. The proof can be found in this sport comedy film. DRIVEN BY THE NEED TO SUCCEED due to a childhood basketball game incident Dax, played by Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, The Carmichael Show-TV) is determined to win the neighborhood basketball tournament. However when Mookie, played by Nick Kroll (Adult Beginners, My Blind Brother), steals Dax’ star basketball player; Dax is forced to seek out the basketball legend Uncle Drew, played by Kyrie Irving. Upon meeting him Dax has no idea how an old, white haired man could possibly play the game. With Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip, Meet the Spartans) as Jess, Erica Ash (Scary Movie 5, Survivor’s Remorse-TV) as Maya and Shaquille O’Neal (Steel, Kazaam) as Big Fella; it has been established I am not a big fan of basketball. The script started out slow for me, along with its easy predictability. What kept my interest through this picture, believe it or not, was the basketball playing. I was amazed by the “senior” basketball players’ skills; they were fun to watch. The jokes and humor were nothing special; but for this light fare it was fine. And because of the basketball playing on display in this film I have a new appreciation for the game of basketball.
2 ½ stars
ALL THAT WAS NEEDED WAS A bed sheet and 2 chairs. With these items one could create a fort and that is exactly what we would do. Whenever I would get together with a cousin of mine and we wanted to pretend to be in the military, we would start our fort with the 2 chairs separated but facing each other. Draping the sheet over them we now would have a secret tunnel we had to crawl through underneath the chair seat, right between its legs. Once safely under the cover of the sheet we would go over our just thought out battle plans. There were times where we needed a bigger fort so I would take out the extra folding chairs from the hall closet while he went in search for more sheets and blankets. From our strategically placed covered chairs, we created an intricate compound of tunnels and meeting rooms. If there were enough items we would even incorporate the living room’s coffee tables to expand our structure. We could play for hours besides requesting our meals be delivered to our pretend mess hall in the middle of our fort. FROM THAT EARLY TIME, I fell in love with a variety of real and make-believe games. One of my oldest memories is being taught to play the card game, War. Add in Crazy 8’s, Gin Rummy and Concentration; I was always asking friends and family if they wanted to play with me. Store bought games also became important to me. You might not believe it but I still have some of them to this day and they remain in good condition. There is nothing like sitting down with a friend and taking out the game pieces of a board game in anticipation of a rousing good time. Interestingly I am not competitive against anyone, only myself. So, I never cared if I won or not; I simply enjoyed playing the game. The only time where I do not have fun playing is when there is a group of people and one of them is super competitive; I mean yelling and making rude comments to the other players or even the ones on their own team. I avoid this type of situation, preferring to sit it out and just observe. As for those games that list the ideal age range one should be to play it, do not believe it. There should never me an age restriction on being able to have fun; just watch the childhood friends in this comedy inspired by a true story. FOR THE PAST DECADES CHILDHOOD friends put one month aside a year to continue their game of Tag. Neither wedding or funeral were off limits in getting tagged “you’re it.” With Ed Helms (Chappaquiddick, Vacation) as Hogan “Hoagie” Malloy, Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, The Carmichael Show-TV) as Reggie, Jon Hamm (Beirut, Baby Driver) as Bob Callahan, Jake Johnson (Let’s Be Cops, New Girl-TV) as Randy “Chilli” Cilliano and Jeremy Renner (Wind River, The Bourne Legacy) as Jerry Pierce; the story for this film was wild. The fact these friends have been doing this same game of Tag for all these years is a bit mind blowing. I thought the cast did as best as they could with the script, but I need to tell you I became bored by the repetitive schemes to tag Jeremy’s character. A couple of scenes were fun and okay, but some of the stunts were too goofy for me. Honestly, I think I would have rather seen a documentary about these childhood friends, so I could have gotten a better feel for what type of individuals they were to each other. What can I say when I tell you I thought one of the best parts of this film was the way they did the ending credits. Maybe you will have a better time with this film; I did not get it.